PCT Week One: From Border Wall to Moms Pies

Day One

After snapping a super goofy photo of my oh-so-anxious self, I said goodbye to my cousin Stephanie and made my way down the trail.
Benjain Martin Standing at the Southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The first few miles I hiked in absolute elation. It was pure bliss. I feel like people dramatically underestimate the beauty of this first section. It is absolutely stunning compared to the relatively flat nature of Texas. At about five miles or so in I posted up under the shade of a big old tree. The breeze was blowing nicely and felt amazing. The terrain is definitely more difficult than I had anticipated in the southern section and my pack was fairly loaded down. I’ve already thought of ways to cut some weight. I guess that’s part of the fun.

By 2 p.m. I had completed 8.2 miles of the PCT and I was just about done. It was no joke, but worth every single second of the pain. Already got a few blisters working and there was no doubt that I was hurting a little.  After another breather I collected my thoughts and decided I’d trudge on some more.

I stopped for lunch around 3:13 at mile 9.6. I found a perfect spot in the shade under a big boulder. Ramen hit the spot and gave me that last bit of energy I needed to make it to camp.

Photo of flowers overlooking the mountains on the horizon. Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike week 1.

Camping at Hauser Creek

Got to Hauser Creek (mile 15.3.) just before sunset.  There were already about ten tents there as well. It was a pretty decent place to camp except for the poison oak and being right by the creek. We were joined by my not so close friends the mosquitoes. Camp sites are seemingly very limited and there are not many of them along the  trail. You pretty much gotta take what you can get.

Since I was rather tired I didn’t much feel like cooking, I tried to eat my cold soaked rice. It was miserable. Needed salt. Holy moly, that was by far the worst thing I’ve ever tasted or cooked. And that’s really saying something. I forced myself to eat as much as I could before I completely lost my appetite. Spent a moment checking out Guthook and did some brainstorming before I closed my eyes and listened to the very peculiar sounds around me. I wish I knew what that animal was. The frogs were singing as well. Also, I have bugs in my tent. Hooray day one.

PCT Day Two

I awoke to the sounds of everyone else packing up. I didn’t sleep very well at all. It was so humid being that close to the creek. I was cold but sweating. Strange sleep. Took my time getting packed up while my neighbor Beena offered me some coffee. Needless to say it was exactly what I needed. Thanks girl!

Now having some more pep in my step I looked up at the mountain in front of me and was excited for the next five miles to Lake Morena. It took me well over six hours to make that climb. Unfortunately that mountain had other plans for me.  That was a very difficult hike. Still trying to get my hiker legs working right. I can honestly say if you’re contemplating this hike you should invest some time getting your quads right. Those uphills are gnarly! Especially for us flat ground folks; for example, five Texas miles equal 1/8 of a California mile. At least that’s what it feels like.

After much strain and determination I made it up to the Malt Shop at Lake Morena. Had myself a big ol’ burger. Maybe this is just me, but I was not really impressed. The Texan in me is not a fan of pickled jalapeños, Kraft singles, and a pound of lettuce on a bun. I come from the land of “this patty is bigger than my face” and the jalapeños are so fresh they make you cry. I guess I’m just being picky, though. Apparently the hiker hunger hasn’t quite kicked in. Nonetheless, it provided me with the exact nutrients that I needed and I was very grateful.

New Friends and New Memories

Outside the Malt Shop, I met several very friendly hiker pals: Julianna, Chris, Pat, and Smiles. We talked for a while before making our way down to the campsite. After walking about 30 feet from the shop we were offered a ride by one of the park rangers. He drove us down to the campsite where we hung out for a while just chatting, smoking, drinking, and laughing uncontrollably. Smiles was a natural joker and definitely had me going a few times. It was a beautiful experience with people that I will cherish for quite some time to come.

After getting set up and settled in Juliana and I decided to take a walk and see what there was to see. We took some pictures together and talked about life, love, and everything else under the sun. I enjoyed the company and got some pretty awesome shots of our immediate surroundings.

Photo of the sunset looking through grass at Lake Morena. Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike week 1.

Day Three:  Through the Lips, Past the Gums. Look Out Canada, Here We Come!

Woke up a little earlier today and pretty much got right on trail. Started hiking out with Juliana, Marlin, and a couple of other cats.
Hikers leaving Lake Morena Camp ground. Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike week 1.

Took a pretty gnarly spill on the downhill about three miles outside Lake Morena. Ripped my jeans up and banged up my knee pretty good. Luckily my ankle is OK. It was the culprit for the fall. Luckily Juliana was the only one who saw. She at least got a laugh out of it.

We hiked a little farther, then found a beautiful tree to post up under for a quick break. Talked with some folks there for a while, than got moving again. It just so happened that Marlin was ready too so I got to hike with him for the remainder of the day. It was a privilege but also a challenge to keep up with him. I appreciated the push, though. After a while he started to smoke me so I hung back for a breather.

Took a nice long break with Julian, and Chris.  I got to take some awesome pictures. Chris decided to post up there and camp for the night, though Juliana and I continued on for another few miles until we finally met up with Marlin again. He had the perfect spot. In the shade. On the trail overlooking the beautiful countryside. It was a great moment where I caught a glimpse of peace.

We made it to Fred Canyon, hung out for a while, made dinner, had some jazz cabbage, and passed out. We had a big day tomorrow. Quite literally, it was mostly all uphill.

Picture of the sunset through the trees at Fred Canyon campsite. Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike Week 1.

My view looking outside my tent at Fred Canyon Campsite.

PCT Day Four

I was the last one to leave camp. Slept very poorly again, although I couldn’t do much about that, the only site that was left was on a hill. I packed up and did some stretching before setting out. I was excited for what the day could bring.

Got to spend some time with a few very amazing people. There’s a beautiful culture here between thru-hikers.  There is a mutual respect because we are all self-supporting but we still look out for one another. Its like an instant extension of your family. At least that’s how I feel about it. I heard someone say that we call it tramily, which is hiker trash for trail family. I guess I can dig it. It truly is remarkable what we are attempting. I have faith that most of us in this crew will succeed. I hope so, anyway. We made the trek up to Mount Laguna and after catching a meal at the lodge we stopped into the general store there for some munchies.

We decided on staying for the night so we got a site and cowboy camped on Mount Laguna.

Day Five: Hiker Ways and Trail Names

Cowboy camping on Mount Laguna was a complete fail, unfortunately. It was insanely windy and I woke up with a semi-wet sleeping bag. Turns out there was a severe weather advisory for strong wind. Totally felt that. Around 2 a.m. I heard Anna wake up Marlin and I jumped up myself to get on the move. It was an amazing hike and I was extremely grateful to have beat the sun. I rolled my ankle a few times on the downhills. But we crushed some miles really early. Twelve before 12! Got some absolutely gorgeous views as well.

Somewhere around mile 42 I got dubbed Obi-Wan by my new friend Marlin. I guess because Obi-Wan is called old Ben in the movies. I like to think it’s because I’m wise but I think I might be taking a stretch there. Regardless, I accepted my new trail name with a smile on my face. It’s much better than Texas, Dallas, or some of the typical hiker trash names. I can dig it. Thanks, buddy!

We found this awesome rock formation around mile 56 that Marlin called “the notch.” It was a little shaded spot tucked in between four or five massive boulders on the top of the peak. We took a long lunch and it was only 11 a.m. Got some sun soaking in and spent some time going through my pack trying to make a list of what can go. I’ll do anything I can to cut out redundancies and dead weight.

Called my momma for a moment and got to share the beautiful view with her since we had been blessed with some cell service. It was good to hear her voice.

We packed up and hiked off, made it to camp after doing a solid 20 miles. I was happy with our accomplishment.

Day Six: Dirty Palms Don’t Shake Hands

Woke up around 5 a.m. Made it out the “door” by 6 or so. Hiked the first downhill part of the day, which was about seven miles to the water spigot. Met up with Matt, Pat, Humberto, and Ron there. Ron and Humberto are fellow Zpacks rockers. From there we hiked across the ridges, following the different peaks down and around each other until we found a spot to sit and enjoy some lunch. We grubbed down, doctored up our blistered feet, and jumped back on the rocky trail.The three of us hiked another 4.4 miles down the ridges until we finally made it to the valley floor. We set up camp and ate some well-deserved food. Another extremely windy spot but also gorgeous. That valley was quintessential desert land at its finest.

Day Seven:  Ghosts, Pies, and Trail Magic

Woke up to a beautiful sunrise peaking over the mountains.  Marlin was concerned about being able to catch a hitch into Julian so he took off about ten minutes before us.

As Anna and I were about to head out we ran into Snickers and hiked the few miles up to Scissors Crossing together. Just as soon as we reached the road a man in a mini van pulled up and said, “Obi-Wan,” in a very deep, questioning voice. I responded as he got out of the van and opened the door for us to put our packs in. At first I didn’t see Marlin in the passenger seat; needless to say It was very funny. I was concerned that this random man already knew my trail name that I got literally two days before that. Fortunately, our first hitch was practically effortless thanks to Marlin and our trail angel Ghost. He gave us a lift to Julian and was gracious enough to give us the “three-block tour.” “I like to think I’m part thru-hiker cheerleader and part lifeguard,” he told us as we pulled up to a stop sign to let us out. He refused our money and told us to donate to Warner Springs. We are very grateful. Thank you, Ghost!

First things first. Moms Pies! Boy o boy o!  The first food on the trail where the hype matched the flavor. Thank you, Moms Pies in Julian, CA. I would highly recommend this place as they are rather friendly to hikers and offer delicious food.

Blogging at the Julian Library

I have to say this just out of sheer love and respect. The cats at the library are truly awesome. They spent the time to encourage us and let us know how happy they are that PCT hikers come through here to use their services. I was impressed with the facility and the staff was very helpful. We got a pic in front of the library for them; it was their idea so we played along. A great experience, though.

Hikers outside of the Julian Library. Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike week 1.

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Comments 5

  • Jeromy smotherthermon : Apr 13th

    Ben your absolutely beautiful I’m so proud of you. I love you with all my heart and soul have fun

  • Jonathan : Apr 17th

    Love the library shot!

  • Steph : Apr 17th

    Awesome. Keep it up. Look forward to next blog. Love me some Julian pie!

  • Denise : Apr 20th

    Thinking of you & your awesome adventures! Really enjoy reading about your days! You’re doing great, Ben.

    P.S. Miss your salsa!

  • Dianna : Jun 19th

    I’ve stumbled upon your article and loved every bit of your hiking adventures.You were always good with your words….And I’m so glad to hear you’ve actually conquered this journey/goal of yours. I hope all is well with you Benjamin. Sending you love and positivity always. <3


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